Tag Archives: incarceration

Environmental programs in corrections, near and far

In an Oregon prison, butterfly technicians pose with their larvae, growing in cups under energy-efficient LED bulbs. From left to right: Marisol, Carolyn, Mary, Sarah. Photo by Tom Kaye or Chad Naugle.

By Kelli Bush, SPP Acting Director for Evergreen, and Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education and Outreach Manager

Our summer newsletter highlights a selection of environmental programs in corrections. Most of these programs have been replicated across the country, and we have included a few international examples. Beyond these examples, environmental and sustainability programs are operating in prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities nationwide and around the world. Many extend the SPP-style model of ensuring benefits for everyone involved—these are not just cost saving measures.

In these articles, we share perspectives from inmates, corrections staff, and outside-prison partners, demonstrating the collaborative nature of the work. Connections with allied environmental programs have strengthened a growing movement to offer environmental education, access to nature, and sustainable living skills to incarcerated people. We get to continually learn from each other to improve and expand programs, collaborate on new initiatives and evaluate impacts.

Dog handlers of Freedom Tails at Stafford Creek Corrections Center pose for Atsuko Otsuka, freelance journalist and author, consultant for the Guide Dog Puppy-Raising Program and the Horse Program at Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Program Center in Japan.

Together we are inviting people who are incarcerated to recognize the significance and relevance of their skills, talents, and contributions to the environmental movement. Honoring their creativity, experience, and resilience and adding the power of education creates potential for positive shifts in self-perceptions and agency. At the same time, we are working to add diverse and talented stewards to the environmental movement.

As a result of this growing movement, beekeeping is thriving in multiple states. Environmental education in correctional facilities is no longer so uncommon. Countless prisons are creating new standards for reclaiming and revaluing resources the rest of us are too likely to throw away. In Washington, we can barely keep up with the excitement and demands for sustainability programs in prisons. It is wonderful to be part of something big-hearted, socially inclusive, and life affirming!

Lecture Series expands to Shelton

by Liliana Caughman, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator; Photos by Liliana Caughman and Emily Passarelli

Following months of planning, on December 9th, SPP hosted its first ever Science and Sustainability lecture at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) in Shelton, WA. The busy day included two separate lectures to introduce audiences to SPP statewide, and showcase the SPP programs already in place at WCC.

Lililana-2

SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator Liliana Caughman discusses past Science and Sustainability lectures.

Lecture Number One: General Population

The first lecture occurred in the chapel room, which is covered in beautiful murals painted by the official inmate artist. It is a perfect open, yet intimate setting for learning.

A small group of the most avid inmates signed up to join us for this introductory lecture. They were all enthralled with SPP and excited to learn about science and sustainability. All asked questions and offered comments on how to make the lecture series a success at WCC. Everyone took a number of SPP flyers and handouts with them with the promise of distributing them throughout the living units and recruiting their peers to join future lectures.

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WCC inmates and staff look on and smile while learning about SPP at Washington Corrections Center.

This lecture was different than most in that a large number of staff joined the fun: roughly 15 staff members attended, including prison administrators, healthcare workers, correctional officers, and others. They told us that, in the past, it would have been unthinkable for staff and inmates to come together for a lecture. Now, they are hoping to make it a regular thing.

After the conclusion of the first lecture, we headed over to the Intensive Management Unit (IMU) for lecture number two.

Emily-in-IMU

SPP’s Green Track Program Coordinator Emily Passarelli during SPP’s first lecture in the WCC IMU.

Lecture Number Two: IMU

This was SPP’s second lecture in an Intensive Management Unit (IMU; the first occurred in summer 2015 at Monroe Correctional Complex). The IMU is like a prison inside a prison. There is a separate entrance to the unit and inmates inside are in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Due to the high security risk posed by these inmates, staff must bring them into the classroom one at a time, and chain each student to their desk. The desks are so bulky, and the process so time-consuming, that the lecture class is limited to 6 student-inmates.

Seeing people limited this way can be shocking. There is a dark side to our society, and it is in places like the IMU where it is most evident.

However, the vast majority of these men will someday be released to outside communities, and need access to programs that can assist with rehabilitation. Due to the restrictive nature of the IMU, these inmates have very little contact with other people, and social skills can become further and further depleted. Educational programming like the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series may offer a safe and engaging group experience, and allow them to set their sights on a more positive future.

IMU-student

A student in the IMU listens attentively to the presentation.

Despite the challenging setting, the lecture was fantastic. None of the inmates in attendance had ever heard of SPP before, and they were visibly interested in learning more. While the group started off quiet and reserved, all were attentive. By the end, a few had opened up to ask questions and contribute comments.

The students seemed to especially enjoy the pictures of WCC’s extensive gardens, and learning about what sustainable practices were happening at their prison. The more talkative of the bunch made it clear that they wanted more lectures in the future, and asked to be included on the list of attendees. We saw the IMU inmates’ desire to learn and grow. This group must not be forgotten.

Overall, December 9th was a special day. It marked a number of important firsts for WCC, and progress for the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series. The future looks bright for a lecture series to flourish in Shelton.

nature-inside-the-IMU

Bringing nature inside the IMU, one step at a time.